Birmingham Hebrew Congregation

(Singers Hill Synagogue)

Birmingham, West Midlands



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Singers Hill Synagogue, May 2013.
© David Shulman, 2013

Congregation Data


Birmingham Hebrew Congregation
Generally known as Singers Hill Synagogue


Singers Hill, 26, 26A & 26B Blucher Street, Ellis Street, Birmingham B1 1HL (often referred to as the "Cathedral Synagogue")

The synagogue, designed by H. Yeoville Thomason, was consecrated on 24 September 1856 by Chief Rabbi Dr Nathan Adler(iii) Following major repairs and renovations, the synagogue was reconsecrated on 1 September 1912.(iv) The synagogue was later reconstructed and the rededicated took place on 29 August 1937.(v)

The synagogue has been a Grade II* Listed Building since on 21 January 1970 (most recent amendment 8 July 1982) (number 1075712). Click Historic England listing and description.

It was built to replaced the Seven Street Synagogue and the rival congregation established in Wrottesley Street (see below)

Predecessor Synagogues:

From at least 1780 to about 1791:

A small synagogue was established in the area then known as The Froggery,(viii) Birmingham (a low lying swampy area replaced in 1845 by Station Road and New Street Station(ix)).

From about 1791(x) to 1809:

A new synagogue was built, in Hurst Street, in the vicinity of The Froggery.

From 1809 to 1856:

The Severn Street Synagogue at 60 Severn Street, Birmingham B1 1QC. The foundation stone was laid om 29 May 1809 and the building completed in 1813. In 1813 the synagogue was wrecked and pillaged in riots against "dissenting houses of worship".(xi) It was largely rebuilt and subsequently enlarged in Greek Revival style in 1823-27 (architect Richard Tutin).(xii) It was later refurbished in 1851. In 1856, it was sold to the Freemasons to become the Athol Masonic Hall and has been a Grade II Listed Building since 28 April 2006 (number 1391675). See Historic England listing and description.

Rival Congregation:

A schism developed in the community in 1852 leading to the formation in 1853 of the rival  Wrottesley Street Synagogue. However unity was restored in 1855, the two congregations uniting together with the opening of the synagogue in Singers Hill in 1856.(xvi)

Current Status:



Ashkenazi Orthodox.


The congregation is unaffiliated but under the aegis of the Chief Rabbi.



Incorporated Congregation & Branch Minyan:

Following the closure of Birmingham New Synagogue in 1995, that congregation was incorporated into the Birmingham Hebrew Congregation. However, it was agreed with remaining members of the incorporated congregation that a separate local minyan would be maintained for them, as a branch of the Birmingham Hebrew Congregation, which meets at the King David School, 244 Alcester Road, Moseley.

Ministers of the Congregation:
(To view a short profile of a minister or reader whose name appears in blue, hold the cursor over his name.)

Rev. Isaiah Phillips - from 1785 until 1835(xix)

Rev. Dr. Morris Jacob Raphall - from the 1830s until 1849(xx)

Rev. Abraham Pereira Mendes - from 1853 until 1858(xxi)

Rev. George Joseph Emanuel, BA - from 1863 until 1912(xxii)

Rev. Dr. Abraham Cohen, MA - from 1913 until 1949(xxiii)

Rev. Dr. Chaim Pearl, MA - from 1949 until 1960 (an assistant minister from 1945)(xxvi)

Rev. Sidney Gold, BA - from 1960 until 1984(xxvii)

Rabbi Leonard L. Tann, MA - from 1986 until 2007(xxviii)

Rabbi Yossi Jacobs - from November 2007 until present (July 2022) (an assistant minister from 2005)(xxix)

Assistant Ministers, Readers &(Chazanim):
(other than those who subsequently served as Chief Minister)

Rev. Lewis Chapman - first reader from about 1830 until 1874(xxxiii)

Rev. Bernard Hast - first reader from 1875 until 1887(xxxiv)

Rev. Moses Hirsch Hollander - second reader from 1855 until 1885(xxxv)

Rev. Jacob Fink - first reader from about 1887 until 1924(xxxvi)

Rev. Benjamin Woolf - second reader mid 1880s until at least 1912(xxxvii)

Rev. Hyam Jacob Dainow - second reader about 1896 until at about 1921(xl)

Rev. B.M. Alperovitz - second reader from 1914 until 1920s(xli)

Rev. Isaac Woolf Zucker - second reader and then first reader, from about 1924 until 1927(xlii)

Rev. Samuel Isaac Solomons - reader from 1927 until about 1939 then senior assistant minister until 1949(xliii)

Rev. Gershon Boyars - reader from about 1928 until 1931(xliv)

Rev. Wolf Lewi - first reader from 1933 until 1965(xlvii)

Rev. Reuben Solomon Brookes - assistant minister and director of education from 1950 until 1979(xlviii)

Rev. Morris Katz - chazan from 1965 until 1969(xlix)

Rev. Solomon Forscher - chazan from March 1970 until January 1971(l)

Rev. Stanley Ivan Brickman - chazan from 1971 until 1983(li)

Rev. David Harel - chazan from 1984 until 1986(liv)

Rev. Henry Malcolm Black - chazan from 1986 until 1990(lv)  

Lay Officers of the Congregation:

Unless otherwise indicated, the information on the congregation's officers below, has generally been extracted from Jewish Year Books, first published in 1896/7. It was not published during the war years 1941 to 1945, nor were there any listings of lay officers (other than secretary) subsequent to 1956.(lx)

Earlier Known Presidents

c.1827 - Simeon Samuel(lxi)

1853-1865 - Jacob Phillips(lxii)

1865-1867 - Abraham Danziger(lxiii)

1873-1874 - Abraham Danziger(lxiii)

Presidents from 1896s

1896-1898 - B. H. Joseph

1898-1900 - Henry Davis

1900-1902 - S.M. Levi

1902-1904 - Samuel Gordon

1904-1906 - Aaron Cotton

1906-1907 - D. Hollander

1907-1921 - I.L. Jacobs

1921-1922 - A.A. Jacobs

1922-1925 - C.M. Levi

1925-1932 - E.P. Hollander, JP

1932-1940 - Oscar Deutsch

1940-1945 - no data

1945-1955 - Ivan Shortt

1955-1956 - Philip Bloom


1929-1932 - E.P. Hollander

1929-1940 - I.L. Jacobs

1932-1940 - Oscar Deutsch

1940-1945 - no data

1945-1949 - I. Candleshine

1945-1951 - Ivan Shortt

1949-1956 - L. Cassell

Chairmen of the Council

1927-1940 - B. Silverston, MA, LLM

1940-1945 - no data

1945-1954 - Joseph Cohen

1954-1956 - Harry Gompertz


1896-1897 - Henry Davis

1897-1900 - S.M. Levi

1900-1904 - Aaron Cotton

1904-1906 - D. Hollander

1907-1909 - S.M. Levi

1909-1910 - S.B. Simmons

1910-1915 - S.M. Levi

1915-1921 - A.A. Jacobs

1921-1924 - J. Albury

1924-1926 - H.J. Marks

1926-1928 - S.J. Davis

1928-1936 - H. Joseph

1936-1940 - J.W. Levy

1940-1945 - no data

1945-1956 - Jack Cotton


1860-1865 - Rev. Abraham F. Ornstein(lxvii)

1865-1913 - Moses Berlyn(lxviii)

1914-1915 - Miss D. Tuchman

1915-1921 - M. Friedman

1921-1927 - Miss F.E. Cotton

1927-1946 - Rev. Samuel Isaac Solomons

1946-1959 - Samuel Goldberg

1959-1997 - R. Singer

Membership Data:


1845 - 83 ba'alai batim and 99 seatholders (Chief Rabbi's Questionnaire)

1851 - 300 appropriated seats and 679 individuals (ibid.)

Number of Seatholders - Board of Deputies Returns













Number of Seatholder - as reported by Jewish Year Books



























National Reports and Surveys(lxxii)

1977 - 590 male (or household) members and 535 female members

1983 - 518 male (or household) members and 633 female members

1990 - 700 members (comprising 400 households, 50 individual male and 250 individual female members)

1996 - 669 members (comprising 371 households, 131 individual male and 167 individual female members)

2010 and 2016 - listed as having 300 to 399 members (by household)

Charitable Status:

The congregation is a registered charity (number 222277) under the name Birmingham Hebrew Congregation and Charitable Institutions, registered (standard registration) on 17 December 1965. The governing document is the Laws of the Congregation, as amended 9 February 2003.(lxxiii)

Worship Registration:

The Singers Hill synagogue is registered as a Place of Worship - Worship Register Number 30805 - under the Places of Worship Registration Act 1855.(lxxiv)


See Birmingham Jewish Cemeteries Information on Birmingham Jewish Community home page


Synagogue interior (from 1963 booklet issued by the Congregation


 Online Articles and Other Material
relating to this Congregation


On Third Party websites



Congregational Records

Synagogue Records:

  • Minutes of the Congregation - 1825-1912 held by Birmingham Central library


Notes & Sources
( returns to text above)

  • (i) and (ii) Reserved.

  • (iii) Birmingham Jewry More Aspects 1740-1950, editor Z. Josephs, p.14.

  • (iv) Birmingham Jewry More Aspects 1740-1950, editor Z. Josephs, p.24.

  • (v) Jewish Year Book 1939.

  • (vi) and (vii) Reserved.

  • (viii) W. Hutton's History of Birmingham, 2nd edition, 1783.

  • (ix) Birmingham Jewry 1749-1914, editor Z. Josephs, p.10.

  • (x) Aris's Birmingham Gazette, reported on 26 September 1791 (page 3): "On Friday last, the ceremony of dedicating the newly erected Jews' Synagogue, in this town, was performed by Mr. Phillips, Mr. Yates and Mr. Levi, who sung(sic) the appointed psalms and songs of praise ,in the sacred language, with great judgment and melody." 

  • (xi) Birmingham Jewry More Aspects 1740-1950, editor Z. Josephs, p.8. The rioters in Birmingham also severely damaged a Methodist Church, a Quaker Meetinghouse and a Baptist Chapel.

  • (xii) R.K. Dent's Birmingham Old and New, 1880 - "The year 1827 is memorable in the history of the Hebrew Society of Birmingham as having seen the completion of a new and commodious synagogue in Severn Street where for the first time in Birmingham their solemn and impressive service might be conducted in a more fitting and becoming manner than in the small building which they had hitherto occupied."

  • (xiii) to (xv) Reserved.

  • (xvi) Birmingham Jewry More Aspects 1740-1950, editor Z. Josephs, pp.13-14.

  • (xvii) and (xviii) Reserved.

  • (xix) The title by which Rabbi Phillips was known was lecturer. Birmingham Jewry, More Aspects 1740-1930, editor Z. Josephs, p.14.

  • (xx) Birmingham Jewry, More Aspects 1740-1930, editor Z. Josephs, pp.14/15.

  • (xxi) Birmingham Jewry, More Aspects 1740-1930, editor Z. Josephs, p.15 and Jewish Chronicle reports of 21 May 1852 and 23 June 1858. Rev. Mendes was in office for the consecration of the Congregation's Singers Hill Synagogue.

  • (xxii) Jewish Chronicle of 1 January 1864 reported at a meeting of the free members of the Birmingham congregation held on 25 December 1863 Mr. G.J. Emanuel, BA, was unanimously elected to the vacant office of preacher to the congregation. Jewish Chronicle of 19 January 1912 reported that Rev. G.J. Emanuel, BA had intimated his intention of retiring as and from April next. The rev. gentleman has been compelled to take this step owing to the state of his health.

  • (xxiii) Jewish Chronicle of 26 September 1913 reported that the vacated Birmingham Congregation gave a call to the Rev. A. Cohen, B.A. Jewish Chronicle of 1 July 1949 reported that Dr. Cohen has decided to resign his office as minister of the Birmingham Hebrew Congregation and come to live in London so as to devote himself undividedly to the tasks of the Board of Deputies.

  • (xxiv) and (xxv) Reserved.

  • (xxvi) Jewish Chronicle of 7 October 1949 reported that members of the Birmingham Hebrew Congregation, at a special meeting on Sunday, approved the Council's recommendations that the Rev. Dr. A. Cohen be appointed Minister Emeritus, and that the Rev. Chaim Pearl be appointed Chief Minister. Jewish Chronicle of 14 October 1960 referred to Rev. Dr. Chaim Pearl as the new minister of the New West End Synagogue. He was listed as an assistant minister of the Birmingham congregation in Jewish Year Books 1947 through 1950.

  • (xxvii) Jewish Chronicle of 16 September 1960 reported that Sidney Gold, is taking up a new appointment at the Singers Hill Synagogue, Birmingham. Jewish Chronicle of 8 March 1985 reported that Rev Sidney Gold who has now semi-retired — he has agreed to continue as minister of the Birmingham Hebrew Congregation pending the appointment of a successor. Jewish Chronicle of 3 October 1986 confirmed that Rev Sidney Gold officially retired in December, 1984.

  • (xxviii) Jewish Chronicle of 3 October 1986 reported that the Rev Leonard Tann, minister of the Hale Hebrew Congregation, Manchester, for the past four years, was this week appointed to the prestigious Singers Hill Synagogue in Birmingham. Mr Tann takes up his new post next month. Jewish Chronicle Obituary of 16 November 2007 - Rabbi Tann died in office.

  • (xxix) Jewish Chronicle of 7 December 2007 reported on the appointment of the new chief minister of the congregation, Rabbi Yossi Jacobs. He was still referred to as minister on the congregation's website, last accessed July 2022.

  • (xxx) to (xxxii) Reserved.

  • (xxxiii) Birmingham Jewry, More Aspects 1740-1930, editor Z. Josephs, p.16 and Jewish Chronicle obituary 12 October 1877.

  • (xxxiv) Jewish Chronicle of 4 December 1875 reported that Rev. B. Hast who has been unanimously elected First Reader of the Birmingham Congregation, and is to be installed in the middle "of this month". Jewish Chronicle of 25 August 1887 reported on the formal resignation of the Rev. B. Hast as Reader of the Synagogue.

  • (xxxv) Jewish Chronicle reports.

  • (xxxvi) Jewish Chronicle of 2 January 1925 reported that "Last Sunday" in the Schoolrooms, Blucher Street, an illuminated address and a testimonial were presented to the Rev. J. Fink on the occasion of his retirement as First Reader of the Congregation after a period of service of over thirty-seven years.

  • (xxxvii) Jewish Chronicle reports place Rev. Woolf at the congregation during this period.

  • (xxxviii) and (xxxix) Reserved.

  • (xl) various reports.

  • (xli) Jewish Chronicle of 29 May 1914 reported on Rev. Alperowitz's appointment at Birmingham, from Hull. Jewish Chronicle reports around 1920 suggest he was employed by the rival Birmingham Beth Hamidrash. He was listed as second reader in Jewish Year Books 1916 through 1921

  • (xlii) Listed a second reader in the Jewish Year Book 1925 and as first reader in Jewish Year Books 1926 through 1927.

  • (xliii) Jewish Chronicle of 25 March 1949 reported the presentation (of a cheque) to the Rev. S.I. Solomons on his retiring after 22 years of communal service. He is listed as a reader of the congregation in all Jewish Year Books from 1928 until World War II and as assistant minister from 1945/6 through 1949.

  • (xliv) Listed a first reader in Jewish Year Books 1929 through 1931.

  • (xlv) and (xlvi) Reserved.

  • (xlvii) Jewish Chronicle of 15 September 1933 reported that the newly-elected First Reader of the Congregation, the Rev.Wolf Lewi, was inducted into office Jewish Chronicle of 24 December 1965 reported that Rev. W. Lewi had retired last July. He is listed as first reader of the congregation in Jewish Year Books 1934 through 1965

  • (xlviii) Jewish Chronicle 8 September 1950 reported on Rev. R. S. Brookes's leaving for Birmingham. His Jewish Chronicle obituary of 17 August 1979 indicates he died in office. He is listed as assistant minister and director of education in Jewish Year Book 1951 through 1979.

  • (xlix) The Jewish Chronicle of 24 December 1965 reported that Rev. Morris Katz was inducted into office as reader following the retirement of his predecessor in July. Jewish Chronicle reports place Rev Katz in Birmingham 1969. He i slisted as reader of the congregation in Jewish Year Books 1967 through 1970.

  • (l) Rev. Forscher's Jewish Chronicle obituary of 22 January 1971.

  • (li) Jewish Chronicle of 2 July 1971 reported that Rev Stanley Brickman has been appointed reader of the congregation. Jewish Chronicle of 21 January 1983 reported that he has accepted a "call" to become chazan rishon at the Great Synagogue, Cape Town, South Africa, a position he hopes to take up after Shavuot. He is listed as reader of the congregation in Jewish Year Books 1972 through 1983.

  • (lii) and (liii) Reserved.

  • (liv) Jewish Chronicle of 6 April 1984 reported David Harel appointment as chazan of the congregation. Jewish Chronicle of 21 February 1986 reported that Rev. David Harel was relinquishing his post as chazan after two years. He was listed as reader of the congregation in Jewish Year Books 1985 and 1986.

  • (lv) Jewish Chronicle of 21 February 1986 reported that Mr Henry Malcolm Black, 40, who has been choirmaster at the congregation for 15 years, has taken up the post of part-time chazan of the congregation. Jewish Chronicle of 7 December 1990 reported the decision of popular chazan, Mr Henry Black, to return to London with his family. He was listed as reader of the congregation in Jewish Year Books 1987 through 1991.

  • (lvi) to (lix) Reserved.

  • (lx) Where a person is first listed in a year book as holding a particular office, it has been assumed that his term of office commenced in the year of publication of the relevant year book and that he continued in office until the commencement of office of his successor, unless the office was vacant. Initially year books corresponded to the Hebrew year, and thus ran roughly from autumn of one year - the year of publication - until autumn of the next year. From 1909, year books were published according to the Gregorian year, being published generally towards the end of the year prior to the year appearing in the title of the year book. For example, if an officer is listed in Jewish Year Books 1919 through 1924, it is assumed that he commenced office in 1918 and continued in office until 1924. However, it should be noted that this is only an assumption and, accordingly, his actual years of office may differ somewhat from those shown here.

  • (lxi) Birmingham Jewry More Aspects 1740-1950, editor Z. Josephs, p.11.

  • (lxii) Birmingham Jewry 1749-1914, editor Z. Josephs, facing p.109.

  • (lxiii) Birmingham Jewry 1749-1914, editor Z. Josephs, facing p.86.

  • (lxiv) to (lxvi) Reserved.

  • (lxvii) Birmingham Jewry More Aspects 1740-1950, editor Z. Josephs, p.15. Rev. Ornstein was also employed as headmaster of the Hebrew school for the same period.

  • (lxviii) Birmingham Jewry More Aspects 1740-1950, editor Z. Josephs, p.15. Mr. Berlyn was also employed as headmaster of the Hebrew school until 1904.

  • (lxix) to (lxxi) Reserved.

  • (lxxii) Reports on synagogue membership in the United Kingdom, published by the Board of Deputies of British Jews and which can be viewed on the website of the Institute of Jewish Policy Research. Click HERE for links to the various reports.

  • (lxxiii) Charity Commission website, last accessed July 2022.

  • (lxxiv) Page 53 of the 2010 List of Places of Worship.

Birmingham Jewish Community home page

Jewish Congregations in West Midlands

Jewish Communities of England home page

Page created: 2 March 2004
Data significantly expanded and notes first added: 1 August 2017
Page reformatted and further significantly expanded: 21 July 2022
Page most recently amended: 6 September 2023

Research and formatting by David Shulman

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